President Trump’s high-stakes G20 summit sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week will center on conflicts in Syria and Ukraine — and probably won’t broach the topic of Kremlin election meddling, according to a new report.
One of Trump’s top priorities during the meeting in Hamburg, Germany is expected to be Putin’s backing of Syrian despot Bashar Assad’s regime, administration officials told CNN. The commander-in-chief will likely also bring up Russian action in Ukraine.
Administration officials have offered few public details thus far on the agenda for Trump and Putin’s first encounter as fellow heads of state.
“Well, there’s no specific agenda,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster said in a briefing Thursday. “It’s really going to be whatever the President wants to talk about … He will talk with many other leaders during the conference as well.”
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“It won’t be different from our discussions with any other country, really,” McMaster added.
Pressed on whether Trump would raise the issue of Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election, top economic adviser Gary Cohn reiterated “we don’t have an agenda set up for these meetings right now” and said the administration was “still finalizing schedules.”
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway suggested media types wondering whether Trump would raise the election were focusing on the wrong issue.
“Why hasn’t anybody said, ‘Will he discuss the fact that … what Russia did or did not say after Assad gassed men, women and children in Syria?’ I mean, where is the outrage about items like that?” Conway said Monday on “Fox and Friends.”
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“Happened a couple short months ago; you saw how strong and resolute and immediate the President was in taking action over there in Syria. But again, they’re talking about themselves again.”
The meeting comes in the midst of multiple governmental probes into Kremlin election interference and Trump associates’ possible ties to Russia.
The President, who doled out regular praise to Putin on the campaign trail, has cast doubt on widespread consensus that Russia sought to sway the election in his favor.
Though this is Trump’s first time as President coming face to face with Putin, the extent and nature of their previous interactions remain unclear.
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Then-businessman Trump in November 2013 told MSNBC “I do have a relationship” with Putin. In March 2014, he told a CPAC audience the Russian leader had sent him a “beautiful present with a beautiful note,” and two months later said he’d recently spoken “indirectly, and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”
But Trump pulled a 180 under fresh political scrutiny leading up to the 2016 election — maintaining in various interviews he had “nothing to do with Putin” and “no relationship with him.”
Putin, for his part, called Trump a “colorful” person during the campaign.
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